By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
“…And the moral of the story is: The diligent ant community continued to thrive as the direct result of their organized industriousness, and the happy-go-lucky grasshopper community continued to survive hopping around in an unorganized manner, laying waste to the environment. Neither of them lived forever. Neither wound up in heaven or hell. Each did what they had to do and were no more.”
Such was the latent and subtle message I received as a child from this famous fairytale. Only now can I understand and relate the hidden moral. Only now can I see that the human animal, bearing in its DNA the residue of its animal evolution, is destined to follow a variety of diverse paths to the dreaded end of its short-lived mortality.
That wisdom does not make me sad, but enlightened. Of course it would make me much happier to dream about some marvelous afterlife experience, but I’m not an optimist! This moral may not convince you that death, untimely or otherwise, brings us closure, but at least it can help you prepare yourself to enjoy what few years you have left among God’s earthbound creatures.
The Ant and The Grasshopper fairytale contains the philosophy that honors the work ethic and supposedly teaches us to save something for the rainy day, the monsoon season, the annual white-out blizzard, and the other events in life that threaten our health, security, and longevity. While the lazy grasshoppers are fiddling around watching MTV, playing video games, drinking beer, and eating pizza; the busy ants are preparing for their SAT tests, writing term papers, helping around the house, and doing “community service” in their spare time.
Yet, there is a much stronger message buried deep inside that fable. One that appeals to the modern adolescent that dreams about getting something for nothing, or if all else fails, the most from the least effort. The grasshopper has fun all summer. He eats and plays like there is no tomorrow until winter arrives. A tomorrow that doesn’t bring much fun except for skiers, snowboarders, and a few snowmobile racers. A tomorrow that buries his food sources under a blanket of snow and freezes his drinking water.
But, the young lad doesn’t have to worry long. He has a safety net in place, thanks to a society that provides for the unemployed, the disabled, the indigent, the addict, the ne’er-do-well, and the improvident party animal. Yes, the Great Society foresaw his need in advance. Like Joseph in ancient Egypt, wise leaders have put aside the excess of the bounty garnered from the more productive years by hard working harvesters. This excess is then distributed to the “needy.”
Modern civilization has refined this method of “fairly” distributing resources by introducing mandatory insurance schemes. Someone has to come up with the money to pay for unemployment compensation, Social Security pensions, health and dental insurance, home and car insurance, disability insurance, and travel insurance.
All of these programs take money from the wage earner, the provident, the low risk, the cautious, and the sucker which will be shared later by the insurance administrators and those “beneficiaries” who qualify under the rigid rules of the law or the unread insurance contract. The insured, like the members of the ant colony, buys into the promise that they will benefit in case of emergency. All insured happily contribute hoping they never have to file a claim.
In this socialistic world, each worker must pay something according to his or her ability to hang onto a job. Business and union leaders negotiate what a fair amount is. In order to force workers to contribute to these various insurance schemes, the crafty leaders of our governments and businesses have wisely determined that many of the premiums will be paid by the employer or deducted from a worker’s pay check each pay period.
When the insurance companies learned that the healthy, younger workers were smart enough to resist overpaying for their health insurance, these companies convinced the government and the employers that salary increases should be used to pay for medical insurance. Premiums that are now paid by employers for workers’ comp, disability, health, and dental insurance are in fact wages that employers could have paid to employees to buy the insurance they needed. However, no one felt that workers would buy insurance with these raises. This “fringe benefit” money truly belongs to employees, but they have almost nothing to say about how their money should be spent and what level of insurance coverage should be purchased.
Unemployment Compensation and Social Security benefits are similar labor costs. This money is collected by our caring government agencies and used for a variety of “grasshopper” needs. As they should be, right? We ants must take care of the unlucky ones, at least for the first winter. What happens after that depends on the liberal agenda and political pressure from lobbyists who can fix all our complicated social problems with someone else’s money. The “let-them-eat-rice” conservatives drag their feet in adopting liberal ideas. They make sure, when they finally agree with the liberals, that the insurance companies are well rewarded financially.
The original ant-like provisions for a fierce winter have evolved into cradle-to-the-grave benefits for those humans who know how to play the role of a tragic victim. Good for these resourceful beneficiaries of our community’s generosity! Donations to charities to help the poor and needy were initially undermined by the progressive income tax introduced less than a 100 years ago.
Now we have all that tax money (that was formerly spent by selfish, conspicuous consumers) in the hands of caring, seldom audited service agencies whose well paid servants dole out government chits to deserving citizens for a variety of sound reasons. I know you ants feel better about this already. You might even qualify for some of those chits!
When summer rolls around, most of the ants are back at work, and the bureaucratic human machinery that grinds out welfare checks, unemployment checks, Social Security payments, food stamps, etc. continues uninterrupted. When government revenue is inadequate to cover public expenditures, governments borrow from future tax revenue. But don’t worry about that. Paying off the debt won’t be a problem for this generation!
However, should you ever get tired of being an over-worked, over-taxed ant, you can study how the cheerful grasshopper makes out. Those folks who copy the grasshopper’s care-less lifestyle manage very well without working very hard or long, and they never seem to suffer serious stress about not paying for their subsidized lifestyle.